Hastings Law Journal


In 1964, the United States Supreme Court held that the fourteenth amendment requires state legislatures to apportion themselves by population. The new constitutional rule of one person, one vote set forth in Reynolds v. Sims was derived largely from decisions prohibiting racial discrimination in voting under the fifteenth amendment. In decisions following Reynolds, the Court recognized that the one-person, one-vote standard could be satisfied by creation of multimember districts or at-large voting plans that would be likely to disadvantage racial minorities. This Article traces the development of the problem of minority vote dilution and the Court's attempts to articulate standards governing such cases. Particular attention is given to City of Mobile v. Bolden, where a plurality opinion held that black voters must prove an at-large voting plan was motivated by invidious purpose, and Rogers Y. Lodge, in which a majority of the Court approved the Bolden plurality's intent requirement. The Article concludes that the Court's enunciation of a higher standard of proof in cases involving racial vote dilution than that required to challenge population malapportionment has created an intolerable inversion of historical and constitutional priorities. In addition, the Article concludes that none of the standards proposed by various members of the Court would provide the necessary judicial manageability, and proposes a manageable standard of proof that reconciles the implied constitutional right of majority rule with the explicit constitutional demand for the protection of racial groups.

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